Heather Cox Richardson

Here you go:

The German Wiki lemma has some further detail, some of which are rather juicy.

The quote “Wir haben einen Abgrund von Landesverrat im Lande!” is really something. This still resonates today, and usually not in context with the military, but with freedom of the press.

Oh, and by the way: the German Bundeswehr was “bedingt abwehrbereit” at the time - with around 400.000 servicemen, if I recall correctly.

Today, the troops are below 200k servicepeople.


Still relevant


Ah, thank you for the brilliant context. That’s a fascinating link.
“Bedingt abwehrbereit” (“Conditionally Ready to Defend”) (From wiki).

Another phrase from that era seemed particularly pertinent, (from the same page):
“abyss of treason” (“Abgrund von Landesverrat”)

Went down a bit of an enlightening rabbithole there. :slightly_smiling_face:


February 10, 2024 (Saturday)

A key story that got missed yesterday was that the Senate voted 64–19 to allow a bill that includes $95.34 billion in aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan to advance a step forward. In terms of domestic politics, this appears to be an attempt by those who controlled the Republican Party before Trump to push back against Trump and the MAGA Republicans.

MAGA lawmakers had demanded border security measures be added to a national security supplemental bill that provided this international aid, as well as humanitarian aid to Gaza, but to their apparent surprise, a bipartisan group of lawmakers actually hammered out that border piece. Trump immediately demanded an end to the bill and MAGA obliged on Wednesday, forcing the rest of the party to join them in killing the national security supplemental bill. House Republicans then promptly tried to pass a measure that provided funding for Israel alone.

At stake behind this fight is not only control of the Republican Party, but also the role of the U.S. in the world—and, for that matter, its standing. And much of that fight comes down to Ukraine’s attempt to resist Russia’s invasions of 2014 and 2022.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is intent on dismantling the rules-based international order of norms and values developed after World War II. Under this system, international organizations such as the United Nations provide places to resolve international disputes, prevent territorial wars, and end no-holds-barred slaughter through a series of agreements, including the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. Genocide Convention, and the Geneva Conventions on the laws of war.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, deliberate targeting of civilian populations, and war crimes are his way of thumbing his nose at the established order and demanding a different one, in which men like him dominate the globe.

Trump’s ties to Russia are deep and well documented, including by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which was dominated by Republicans when it concluded that Trump’s 2016 campaign team had worked with Russian operatives. In November 2022, in the New York Times Magazine, Jim Rutenberg pulled together testimony given both to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the Senate Intelligence Committee, transcripts from the impeachment hearings, and recent memoirs.

Rutenberg showed that in 2016, Russian operatives had presented to Trump advisor and later campaign manager Paul Manafort a plan “for the creation of an autonomous republic in Ukraine’s east, giving Putin effective control of the country’s industrial heartland, where Kremlin-armed, -funded, and -directed ‘separatists’ were waging a two-year-old shadow war that had left nearly 10,000 dead.”

But they were concerned that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) might stand in their way. Formed in 1947 to stand against Soviet expansion and now standing against Russian aggression, NATO is a collective security alliance of 31 states that have agreed to consider an attack on any member to be an attack on all.

In exchange for weakening NATO, undermining the U.S. stance in favor of Ukraine in its attempt to throw off the Russians who had invaded in 2014, and removing U.S. sanctions from Russian entities, Russian operatives were willing to put their finger on the scales to help Trump win the White House.

When he was in office, Trump did, in fact, try to weaken NATO—as well as other international organizations like the World Health Organization—and promised he would pull the U.S. out of NATO in a second term, effectively killing it. Rutenberg noted that Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine looks a lot like an attempt to achieve the plan it suggested in 2016. But because there was a different president in the U.S., that invasion did not yield the results Putin expected.

President Joe Biden stepped into office more knowledgeable on foreign affairs than any president since Dwight Eisenhower, who took office in 1953. Biden recognized that democracy was on the ropes around the globe as authoritarian leaders set out to dismantle the rules-based international order. He also knew that the greatest strength of the U.S. is its alliances. In the months after he took office, Biden focused on shoring up NATO, with the result that when Russia invaded Ukraine again in February 2022, a NATO coalition held together to support Ukraine.

By 2024, far from falling apart, NATO was stronger than ever with the addition of Finland. Sweden, too, is expected to join shortly.

But far more than simply shore up the old system, the Biden administration has built on the stability of the rules-based order to make it more democratic, encouraging more peoples, nations, and groups to participate more fully in it. In September 2023, Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained to an audience at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies that the end of the Cold War made people think that the world would inevitably become more peaceful and stable as countries cooperated and emphasized democracy and human rights.

But now, Blinken said, that era is over. After decades of relative stability, authoritarian powers have risen to challenge the rules-based international order, throwing away the ideas of national sovereignty and human rights. As wealth becomes more and more concentrated, people are losing faith in that international order as well as in democracy itself. In a world increasingly under pressure from authoritarians who are trying to enrich themselves and stay in power, he said, the administration is trying to defend fair competition, international law, and human rights.

Historically, though, the U.S. drive to spread democracy has often failed to rise above the old system of colonialism, with the U.S. and other western countries dictating to less prosperous countries. The administration has tried to avoid this trap by advancing a new form of international cooperation that creates partnerships and alignments of interested countries to solve discrete issues. These interest-based alignments, which administration officials refer to as “diplomatic variable geometry,” promise to preserve U.S. global influence and perhaps an international rules-based order but will also mean alliances with nations whose own interests align with those of the U.S. only on certain issues.

In the past three years, the U.S. has created a new security partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom, known as AUKUS, and held a historic, first-ever trilateral leaders’ summit at Camp David with Japan and the Republic of Korea. It has built new partnerships with nations in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as with Latin American and Caribbean countries, to address issues of immigration; two days ago the Trilateral Fentanyl Committee met for the fourth time in Mexico. This new system includes a wider range of voices at the table—backing the membership of the African Union in the Group of 20 (G20) economic forum, for example—advancing a form of cooperation in which every international problem is addressed by a group of partner nations that have a stake in the outcome.

At the same time, the U.S. recognizes that wealthier countries need to step up to help poorer countries develop their own economies rather than mine them for resources. Together with G7 partners, the U.S. has committed to deliver $600 billion in new investments to develop infrastructure across the globe—for example, creating a band of development across Africa.

Biden’s is a bold new approach to global affairs, based on national rights to self-determination and working finally to bring an end to colonialism.

The fight over U.S. aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the other countries with which we have made partnerships is not about saving money—most of the funds for Ukraine are actually spent in the U.S.—or about protecting the U.S. border, as MAGA Republicans demonstrated when they killed the border security bill. It is about whether the globe will move into the 21st century, with all its threats of climate change, disease, and migration, with ways for nations to cooperate, or whether we will be at the mercy of global authoritarians.

Trump’s 2024 campaign website calls for “fundamentally reevaluating NATO’s purpose and NATO’s mission,” and in a campaign speech in South Carolina today, he made it clear what that means. Trump has long misrepresented the financial obligations of NATO countries, and today he suggested that the U.S. would not protect other NATO countries that were “delinquent” if they were attacked by Russia. “In fact,” he said, “I would encourage [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want.”


Zwischenruf des Abgeordneten Seuffert (SPD): „Wer sagt das?“

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February 11, 2024 (Sunday)

On February 12, 1809, Nancy Hanks Lincoln gave birth to her second child, a son: Abraham.

Abraham Lincoln grew up to become the nation’s sixteenth president, leading the country from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865, a little over a month into his second term. He piloted the country through the Civil War, preserving the concept of American democracy. It was a system that had never been fully realized but that he still saw as “the last, best hope of earth” to prove that people could govern themselves.

“Four score and seven years ago,” he told an audience at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in November 1863, “our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Lincoln dated the founding of the nation from the Declaration of Independence rather than the Constitution, the document enslavers preferred because of that document’s protection of property. In the Declaration, the Founders wrote that they held certain “truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….”

But in Lincoln’s day, fabulously wealthy enslavers had gained control over the government and had begun to argue that the Founders had gotten their worldview terribly wrong. They insisted that their system of human enslavement, which had enabled them to amass fortunes previously unimaginable, was the right one. Most men were dull drudges who must be led by their betters for their own good, southern leaders said. As South Carolina senator and enslaver James Henry Hammond put it, “I repudiate, as ridiculously absurd, that much-lauded but nowhere accredited dogma of Mr. Jefferson, that ‘all men are born equal.’”

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln, then a candidate for the Senate, warned that arguments limiting American equality to white men were the same arguments “that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world…. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent.” Either people—men, in his day—were equal, or they were not. Lincoln went on, “I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it…where will it stop?”

Lincoln had thought deeply about the logic of equality. In his 1860 campaign biography, he permitted the biographer to identify six books that had influenced him. One was a book published in 1817 and wildly popular in the Midwest in the 1830s: Capt. Riley’s Narrative. The book was written by James Riley, and the full title of the book was “An Authentic Narrative of the Loss of the American Brig Commerce, Wrecked on the Western Coast of Africa, in the Month of August, 1815, With the Sufferings of Her Surviving Officers and Crew, Who Were Enslaved by the Wandering Arabs on the Great African Desart [sic], or Zahahrah.” The story was exactly what the title indicated: the tale of white men enslaved in Africa.

In the 1850s, on a fragment of paper, Lincoln figured out the logic of a world that permitted the law to sort people into different places in a hierarchy, applying the reasoning he heard around him. “If A. can prove, however conclusively, that he may, of right, enslave B.—why may not B. snatch the same argument, and prove equally, that he may enslave A?” Lincoln wrote. “You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own. You do not mean color exactly?—You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own. But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you.”

Lincoln saw clearly that if we give up the principle of equality before the law, we have given up the whole game. We have admitted the principle that people are unequal and that some people are better than others. Once we have replaced the principle of equality with the idea that humans are unequal, we have granted approval to the idea of rulers and ruled. At that point, all any of us can do is to hope that no one in power decides that we belong in one of the lesser groups.

In 1863, Lincoln reminded his audience at Gettysburg that the Founders had created a nation “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” but it was no longer clear whether “any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” During the Civil War, the people of the United States were defending that principle against those who were trying to create a new nation based, as the Confederacy’s vice president Alexander Stephens said, “upon the great truth” that men were not, in fact, created equal, that the “great physical, philosophical, and moral truth” was that there was a “superior race.”

In the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln called for Americans to understand what was at stake, and to “highly resolve…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

[Photo of Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner, November 8, 1863]


February 12, 2024 (Monday)

Today’s big story continues to be Trump’s statement that he “would encourage [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want” to countries that are part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) if those countries are, in his words, “delinquent.” Both Democrats and Republicans have stood firm behind NATO since Dwight D. Eisenhower ran for president in 1952 to put down the isolationist wing of the Republican Party, and won.

National security specialist Tom Nichols of The Atlantic expressed starkly just what this means: “The leader of one of America’s two major political parties has just signaled to the Kremlin that if elected, he would not only refuse to defend Europe, but he would gladly support Vladimir Putin during World War III and even encourage him to do as he pleases to America’s allies.” Former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark called Trump’s comments “treasonous.”

To be clear, Trump’s beef with NATO has nothing to do with money. Trump has always misrepresented NATO as a sort of protection racket, but as Nick Paton Walsh of CNN put it today: “NATO is not an alliance based on dues: it is the largest military bloc in history, formed to face down the Soviet threat, based on the collective defense that an attack on one is an attack on all—a principle enshrined in Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty.”

On April 4, 1949, the United States and eleven other nations in North America and Europe came together to sign the original NATO declaration. It established a military alliance that guaranteed collective security because all of the member states agreed to defend each other against an attack by a third party. At the time, their main concern was resisting Soviet aggression, but with the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of Russian president Vladimir Putin, NATO resisted Russian aggression instead.

Article 5 of the treaty requires every nation to come to the aid of any one of them if it is attacked militarily. That article has been invoked only once: after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, after which NATO-led troops went to Afghanistan.

In 2006, NATO members agreed to commit at least 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP, a measure of national production) to their own defense spending in order to make sure that NATO remained ready for combat. The economic crash of 2007–2008 meant a number of governments did not meet this commitment, and in 2014, allies pledged to do so. Although most still do not invest 2% of their GDP in their militaries, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014 motivated countries to speed up that investment.

On the day NATO went into effect, President Harry S. Truman said, “If there is anything inevitable in the future, it is the will of the people of the world for freedom and for peace.” In the years since 1949, his observation seems to have proven correct. NATO now has 31 member nations.

Crucially, NATO acts not only as a response to attack, but also as a deterrent, and its strength has always been backstopped by the military strength of the U.S., including its nuclear weapons. Trump has repeatedly attacked NATO and said he would take the U.S. out of it in a second term, alarming Congress enough that last year it put into the National Defense Authorization Act a measure prohibiting any president from leaving NATO without the approval of two thirds of the Senate or a congressional law.

But as Russia specialist Anne Applebaum noted in The Atlantic last month, even though Trump might have trouble actually tossing out a long-standing treaty that has safeguarded national security for 75 years, the realization that the U.S. is abandoning its commitment to collective defense would make the treaty itself worthless. Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholtz called the attack on NATO’s mutual defense guarantee “irresponsible and dangerous,” and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, “Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines our security.”

Applebaum noted on social media that “Trump’s rant…will persuade Russia to keep fighting in Ukraine and, in time, to attack a NATO country too.” She urged people not to “let [Florida senator Marco] Rubio, [South Carolina senator Lindsey] Graham or anyone try to downplay or alter the meaning of what Trump did: He invited Russia to invade NATO. It was not a joke and it will certainly not be understood that way in Moscow.”

She wrote last month that the loss of the U.S. as an ally would force European countries to “cozy up to Russia,” with its authoritarian system, while Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) suggested that many Asian countries would turn to China as a matter of self-preservation. Countries already attacking democracy “would have a compelling new argument in favor of autocratic methods and tactics.” Trade agreements would wither, and the U.S. economy would falter and shrink.

Former governor of South Carolina and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, whose husband is in the military and is currently deployed overseas, noted: “He just put every military member at risk and every one of our allies at risk just by saying something at a rally.” Conservative political commentator and former Bulwark editor in chief Charlie Sykes noted that Trump is “signaling weakness,… appeasement,… surrender…. One of the consistent things about Donald Trump has been his willingness to bow his knee to Vladimir Putin. To ask for favors from Vladimir Putin…. This comes amid his campaign to basically kneecap the aid to Ukraine right now. People ought to take this very, very seriously because it feels as if we are sleepwalking into a global catastrophe…. ”

President Joe Biden asked Congress to pass a supplemental national security bill back in October of last year to provide additional funding for Ukraine and Israel, as well as for the Indo-Pacific. MAGA Republicans insisted they would not pass such a measure unless it contained border security protections, but when Senate negotiators actually produced such protections earlier this month, Trump opposed the measure and Republicans promptly killed it.

There remains a bipartisan majority in favor of aid to Ukraine, and the Senate appears on the verge of passing a $95 billion funding package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. In part, this appears to be an attempt by Republican senators to demonstrate their independence from Trump, who has made his opposition to the measure clear and, according to Katherine Tulluy-McManus and Ursula Perano of Politico, spent the weekend telling senators not to pass it. South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, previously a Ukraine supporter, tonight released a statement saying he will vote no on the measure.

Andrew Desiderio of Punchbowl News recorded how Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) weighed in on the issue during debate today: “This is not a stalemate. This guy [Putin] is on life support… He will not survive if NATO gets stronger.” If the bill does not pass, Tillis said, “You will see the alliance that is supporting Ukraine crumble.” For his part, Tillis wanted no part of that future: “I am not going to be on that page in history.”

If the Senate passes the bill, it will go to the House, where MAGA Republicans who oppose Ukraine funding have so far managed to keep the measure from being taken up. Although it appears likely there is a majority in favor of the bill, House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) tonight preemptively rejected the measure, saying that it is nonstarter because it does not address border security.

Tonight, Trump signaled his complete takeover of the Republican Party. He released a statement confirming that, having pressured Ronna McDaniel to resign as head of the Republican National Committee, he is backing as co-chairs fervent loyalists Michael Whatley, who loudly supported Trump’s claims of fraud after the 2020 presidential election, and his own daughter-in-law Lara Trump, wife of Trump’s second son, Eric. Lara has never held a leadership position in the party. Trump also wants senior advisor to the Trump campaign Chris LaCivita to become the chief operating officer of the Republican National Committee.

This evening, Trump’s lawyers took the question of whether he is immune from prosecution for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election to the Supreme Court. Trump has asked the court to stay last week’s ruling of the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals that he is not immune. A stay would delay the case even further than the two months it already has been delayed by his litigation of the immunity issue. Trump’s approach has always been to stall the cases against him for as long as possible. If the justices deny his request, the case will go back to the trial court and Trump could stand trial.


February 13, 2024 (Tuesday)

“History is watching,” President Joe Biden said this afternoon. He warned “Republicans in Congress who think they can oppose funding for Ukraine and not be held accountable” that “[f]ailure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten.”

At about 5:00 this morning, the Senate passed a $95 billion national security supplemental bill, providing funding for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and humanitarian aid to Gaza. Most of the money in the measure will stay in the United States, paying defense contractors to restock the matériel the U.S. sends to Ukraine.

The vote was 70–29 and was strongly bipartisan. Twenty-two Republicans joined Democrats in support of the bill, overcoming the opposition of far-right Republicans.

The measure went to the House of Representatives, where House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said he will not take it up, even though his far-right supporters acknowledged that a majority of the representatives supported it and that if it did come to the floor, it would pass.

Yesterday, House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Turner (R-OH)—who had just returned from his third trip to Ukraine, where he told President Volodymyr Zelensky that reinforcements were coming—told Politico’s Rachel Bade: “We have to get this done…. This is no longer an issue of, ‘When do we support Ukraine?’ If we do not move, this will be abandoning Ukraine.”

“The speaker will need to bring it to the floor,” Turner said. “You’re either for or against the authoritarian governments invading democratic countries.… You’re either for or against the killing of innocent civilians. You’re either for or against Russia reconstituting the Soviet Union.”

Today, Biden spoke to the press to “call on the Speaker to let the full House speak its mind and not allow a minority of the most extreme voices in the House to block this bill even from being voted on—even from being voted on. This is a critical act for the House to move. It needs to move.”

Bipartisan support for Ukraine “sends a clear message to Ukrainians and to our partners and to our allies around the world: America can be trusted, America can be relied upon, and America stands up for freedom,” he said. “We stand strong for our allies. We never bow down to anyone, and certainly not to Vladimir Putin.”

“Supporting this bill is standing up to Putin. Opposing it is playing into Putin’s hands.”

“The stakes were already high for American security before this bill was passed in the Senate last night,” Biden said. “But in recent days, those stakes have risen. And that’s because the former President has sent a dangerous and shockingly, frankly, un-American signal to the world” Biden said, referring to Trump’s statement on Saturday night that he would “encourage [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want” to countries that are part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—the 75-year-old collective security organization that spans North America and Europe—but are not devoting 2% of the gross domestic product to their militaries.

Trump’s invitation to Putin to invade our NATO allies was “dumb,…shameful,…dangerous, [and] un-American,” Biden said. “When America gives its word, it means something. When we make a commitment, we keep it. And NATO is a sacred commitment.” NATO, Biden said, is “the alliance that protects America and the world.”

“[O]ur adversaries have long sought to create cracks in the Alliance. The greatest hope of all those who wish America harm is for NATO to fall apart. And you can be sure that they all cheered when they heard [what] Donald Trump…said.”

“Our nation stands at…an inflection point in history…where the decisions we make now are going to determine the course of our future for decades to come. This is one of those moments.
And I say to the House members, House Republicans: You’ve got to decide. Are you going to stand up for freedom, or are you going to side with terror and tyranny? Are you going to stand with Ukraine, or are you going to stand with Putin? Will we stand with America or…with Trump?”

“Republicans and Democrats in the Senate came together to send a message of unity to the world. It’s time for the House Republicans to do the same thing: to pass this bill immediately, to stand for decency, stand for democracy, to stand up to a so-called leader hellbent on weakening American security,” Biden said.

“And I mean this sincerely: History is watching. History is watching.”

But instead of taking up the supplemental national security bill tonight, House speaker Johnson took advantage of the fact that Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) has returned to Washington after a stem cell transplant to battle his multiple myeloma and that Judy Chu (D-CA) is absent because she has Covid to make a second attempt to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for “high crimes and misdemeanors” for his oversight of the southern border of the United States.

Republicans voted to impeach Mayorkas by a vote of 214 to 213. The vote catered to far-right Republicans, but impeachment will go nowhere in the Senate.

“History will not look kindly on House Republicans for their blatant act of unconstitutional partisanship that has targeted an honorable public servant in order to play petty political games,” Biden said in a statement. He called on the House to pass the border security measure Republicans killed last week on Trump’s orders, and to pass the national security supplemental bill.

House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has said he will use every possible tool to force a vote on the national security supplemental bill. In contrast, as Biden noted, House Republicans are taking their cue from former president Trump, who does not want aid to Ukraine to pass and who last night demonstrated that he is trying to consolidate his power over the party by installing hand-picked loyalists, including his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, who is married to his son Eric, at the head of the Republican National Committee (RNC).

This move is likely due in part to outgoing RNC chair Ronna McDaniel’s having said the RNC could not pay Trump’s legal bills once he declared himself a presidential candidate. After his political action committees dropped $50 million on legal fees last year, he could likely use another pipeline, and even closer loyalists might give him one.

In addition, Trump probably recognizes that he might well lose the protective legal bulwark of the Trump Organization when Judge Arthur Engoron hands down his verdict in Trump’s $370 million civil fraud trial. New York attorney general Letitia James is seeking not only monetary penalties but also a ban on Trump’s ability to conduct business in the New York real estate industry. In that event, the RNC could become a base of operations for Trump if he succeeds in taking it over entirely.

But it is not clear that all Republican lawmakers will follow him into that takeover, as his demands from the party not only put it out of step with the majority of the American people but also now clearly threaten to blow up global security. “Our base cannot possibly know what’s at stake at the level that any well-briefed U.S. senator should know about what’s at stake if Putin wins,” Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) told his colleagues as he urged them to vote for the national security supplemental bill.

Politicians should recognize that Trump’s determination to win doesn’t help them much: it is all about him and does not extend to any down-ballot races.

Indeed, the attempt of a Republican minority to impose its will on the majority of Americans appears to be sparking a backlash. In today’s election in New York’s Third Congressional District to replace indicted serial liar George Santos, a loyal Trump Republican, voters chose Democrat Tom Suozzi by about 8 points. CNN’s Dana Bash tonight said voters had told her they voted against the Republican candidate because Republicans, on Trump’s orders, killed the bipartisan border deal. The shift both cuts down the Republican majority in the House and suggests that going into 2024, suburban swing voters are breaking for Democrats.

As Trump tries to complete his takeover of the formerly grand old Republican Party, its members have to decide whether to capitulate.

History is watching.

[If you prefer to hear me read this letter, it will be available tomorrow, at about noon, at these sites (for free):

On Substack: Letters from an American | Heather Cox Richardson | Substack

On Apple Podcasts: ‎Connecting to Apple Podcasts ]


I’m not sure I believe that. I’m sure that was a tipping point for some, but Mazi Pilip’s anti-abortion stance was the focus of most of Suozzi’s tv advertising. That and Suozzi saying he saved ICE from the progressives a few years ago, which was a weird campaign stance. He definitely tried to appeal to both sides, which, looking at the results…I don’t know. It seems like a Democrat should have won that seat in a landslide, considering George Santos and the fact that Mazi Pilip was a pretty weak candidate. The NY Democratic Party needs some new leadership.


i wonder if the snow storm ( a veritable act of god ) also played a hand.

many gop true believers seem to feel that early voting is dangerous and not to be trusted, so in recent elections they’ve been waiting till election day. except then it snowed, kids were doing remote school, and roads were dangerous


Mayor Adams is such an asshole. No one was happy about that. Let the kids have a snow day, for God’s sake. It’s not like it happens often enough there to be a problem anymore. I hope somebody decent primaries him next time.

ETA: And to answer your question, that might have made the margin of victory slightly bigger, but he won by almost 8 points. In that district, for a Democrat, that’s practically a landslide.


February 14, 2024 (Wednesday)

I am at home for a short break, and Buddy and I have spent the day taking it easy, a plan I intend to continue for the next several hours. But rather than posting a picture and taking the night off, I am reposting one of my favorite pieces ever for what it says about love, loss, humanity… and history.

It feels appropriate these days.

On Valentine’s Day in 1884, Theodore Roosevelt lost both his wife and his mother.

Four years before, Roosevelt could not have imagined the tragedy that would stun him in 1884. February 14, 1880, marked one of the happiest days of his life. He and the woman he had courted for more than a year, Alice Hathaway Lee, had just announced their engagement. Roosevelt was over the moon: “I can scarcely realize that I can hold her in my arms and kiss her and caress her and love her as much as I choose,” he recorded in his diary. What followed were, according to Roosevelt, “three years of happiness greater and more unalloyed than I have ever known fall to the lot of others.”

After they married in fall 1880, the Roosevelts moved into the home of Theodore’s mother, Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, in New York City. There they lived the life of wealthy young socialites, going to fancy parties and the opera and traveling to Europe.

When Roosevelt was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1881, they moved to the bustling town of Albany, where the state’s political wire-pullers worked their magic. Roosevelt’s machine politician colleagues derided the rich, Harvard-educated young man as a “dude,” and they tried to ignore his irritating interest in reforming society.

In the summer of 1883, Alice discovered that she was pregnant, and that fall she moved back to New York City to live with her mother-in-law. There she awaited the birth of the child who Theodore was certain would arrive on February 14.

As headstrong as her father, Roosevelt’s daughter beat her father’s prediction by two days. On February 12, Alice gave birth to the couple’s first child, who would be named after her.

Roosevelt was at work in Albany and learned the happy news by telegram. But Alice was only “fairly well,” Roosevelt noted. She soon began sliding downhill. She did not recover from the birth; she was suffering from something at the time called “Bright’s Disease,” an unspecified kidney illness.

Roosevelt rushed back to New York City, but by the time he got there at midnight on February 13, Alice was slipping into a coma. Distraught, he held her until he received word that his mother was dangerously ill downstairs. For more than a week, “Mittie” Roosevelt had been sick with typhoid. Roosevelt ran down to her room, where she died shortly after her son got to her bedside. With his mother gone, Roosevelt hurried back to Alice. Only hours later she, too, died.

On February 14, 1884, Roosevelt slashed a heavy black X in his diary and wrote “The light has gone out of my life.” He refused ever to mention Alice again.

Roosevelt’s profound personal tragedy turned out to have national significance. The diseases that killed his wife and mother were diseases of filth and crowding—the hallmarks of the growing Gilded Age American cities. Mittie contracted typhoid from either food or water that had been contaminated by sewage, since New York City did not yet treat or manage either sewage or drinking water. Alice’s disease was probably caused by a strep infection, which incubated in the teeming city’s tenements, where immigrants, whose wages barely kept food on the table, crowded together.

Roosevelt had been interested in urban reform because he worried that incessant work and unhealthy living conditions threatened the ability of young workers to become good citizens. Now, though, it was clear that he, and other rich New Yorkers, had a personal stake in cleaning up the cities and making sure employers paid workers a living wage.

The tragedy gave him a new political identity that enabled him to do just that. Ridiculed as a “dude” in his early career, Roosevelt changed his image in the wake of the events of February 1884.

Desperate to bury his feelings for Alice along with her, Roosevelt escaped to Dakota Territory, to a ranch in which he had invested the previous year. There he rode horses, roped cattle, and toyed with the idea of spending the rest of his life as a western rancher.

The brutal winter of 1886–1887 changed his mind. Months of blizzards and temperatures as low as –41 degrees killed off 80% of the Dakota cattle herds. More than half of Roosevelt’s cattle died.

Roosevelt decided to go back to eastern politics, but this time, no one would be able to make fun of him as a “dude.” In an era when the independent American cowboy dominated the popular imagination, Roosevelt now had credentials as a westerner. He ran for political office as a western cowboy taking on corruption in the East. And, with that cowboy image, he overtook his eastern rivals.

Eventually, Roosevelt’s successes made establishment politicians so nervous they tried to bury him in what was then seen as the graveyard of the vice presidency. Then, in 1901, an unemployed steelworker assassinated President William McKinley and put Roosevelt—“that damned cowboy,” as one of McKinley’s advisers called him—into the White House.

Once there, he worked to clean up the cities and stop the exploitation of workers, backing the urban reforms that were the hallmark of the Progressive Era.

[Photo of Theodore Roosevelt’s diary, Library of Congress.]


February 15, 2024 (Thursday)

Today House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) canceled tomorrow’s votes and sent the House of Representatives into recess until February 28.

Before recessing, Johnson refused to take up the national security supplemental bill the Senate passed early Tuesday morning, providing aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan and humanitarian aid for Gaza. Johnson said the House must “work its own will” rather than vote on the bill at hand because the measure did not include border security measures.

Yesterday, Johnson told House Republicans that the House will not be “rushed” into passing foreign aid, despite the fact that Ukraine’s desperate need for ammunition is enabling Russia to regain some of the territory Ukraine’s troops reclaimed over the past year.

But is it a rush? President Biden asked for additional national security funding in October 2023. A majority of lawmakers in the Senate and the House support such a measure, but Johnson bowed to the demands of MAGA Republicans and said he would not bring such a bill up for a vote unless it contained border security measures to address what they insisted was a crisis at the southern border of the U.S., apparently banking on the idea that such a compromise was impossible.

But Democrats were so desperate to pass the Ukraine funding they see as crucial to our national security that they agreed to give up their demand for a path to citizenship for the so-called Dreamers, those brought to the United States as children and reared here but now stuck in citizenship limbo. So, after four months of work, Senate negotiators produced a bill that offered much of what Republicans demanded.

Once it was clear a deal was going to materialize, Trump demanded it be shut down, likely because he has promised his base that on his first day back in office, he will “begin the largest domestic deportation operation in American history,” and a new border measure would both undermine his campaign message and stymie his plans. Although the border patrol officers union endorsed the Senate national security measure that included border security provisions, Republicans killed it.

Senators immediately went to work on a national security supplemental without the border measure, passing it with 70 votes on Tuesday morning. Johnson indicated he would not take it up, right about the same time that Trump renewed his attack on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that underpins U.S. and global security.

“House Republicans are…siding with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Tehran against our defense industrial base, against NATO, against Ukraine, against our interests in the Indo-Pacific,” the White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said yesterday, and President Joe Biden has repeatedly warned that “[f]ailure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten.” But Republicans, too—including Trump’s vice president Mike Pence—are begging House Republicans to pass a version of the measure.

Perhaps to pressure Johnson, House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Turner (R-OH), who is a strong supporter of aiding Ukraine in its fight against Russia, yesterday released information about “a serious national security threat,” urged all members of Congress to view the intelligence, and called on Biden to declassify all information relating to it. That threat appears to be antisatellite weapons Russia is developing, but they are not yet operational. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) of the Senate Intelligence Committee expressed concern that the disclosure might have revealed intelligence sources and methods.

And now, rather than taking up the national security measure, the House has recessed.

National security and border measures are not the only things the House is ignoring. Since this is a leap year, putting February 29 on the calendar, the recess will give the House just three working days to pass appropriations measures for the 2024 budget before the stopgap continuing resolution to fund the government expires on March 1.

The appropriations process is so far overdue that it threatens to become tangled in that for 2025, which is set to begin March 11, when the White House is expected to release its budget proposal for the year.

While they have been unable to make headway on these measures, on Tuesday night, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to impeach Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, blaming him for an increase in migrants at the border. Johnson has named as impeachment managers a number of Republican extremists, including Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Clay Higgins (R-LA), and Harriet Hageman (R-WY).

As Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan of Punchbowl News reported: “This is the most chaotic, inefficient and ineffective majority we’ve seen in decades covering Congress. It started this way under former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and has gotten worse under Johnson.”

Trump and his MAGA supporters are demonstrating their power over the Republican Party. Trump is trying to install hand-picked loyalists, including his daughter-in-law, at the head of the Republican National Committee, where she vows that “[e]very single penny will go to the No. 1 and the only job of the RNC—that is electing Donald J. Trump as President of the United States.”

When Trump was in office, his team installed loyalists at the head of state parties, where they have worked to purge all but Trump loyalists. MAGA Republicans are continuing that process. After Senator James Lankford (R-OK), a reliable conservative tapped by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to negotiate a border measure, produced one that favored Republican positions, right-wing provocateur Benny Johnson called those like Lankford “traitors…spineless scum” who must “be criminally prosecuted.”

That demand for purity appears to be radicalizing the House as Republicans inclined to get things done, including five committee chairs, have announced they will not run for reelection. Meanwhile, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene yesterday said that British foreign secretary David Cameron, who is urging Congress to pass Ukraine aid, “can kiss my ass.”

But the MAGA agenda is falling apart in the courts. True the Vote, the right-wing organization that insisted it had evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, has told a Georgia judge that, in fact, it has no such evidence. Their claims provided the basis for the arguments about voter fraud highlighted in right-wing pundit Dinesh D’Souza’s film 2000 Mules.

Today a grand jury convened by Special Counsel David Weiss, whom Trump appointed to investigate Hunter Biden, indicted former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov for making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record about Hunter Biden. Smirnov has been a key witness for Republican allegations about Biden’s “corruption” since Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) released Smirnov’s unverified claims about a year ago and other MAGA figures spread them. Matthew Gertz of Media Matters noted that Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity’s show highlighted these allegations in at least 85 separate segments last year, including 28 monologues. Now a grand jury has grounds to think Smirnov lied.

Trump’s personal problems also continue to mount.

Today Judge Juan Merchan confirmed that Trump is going to trial on his criminal election interference case, with jury selection beginning on March 25. Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with 34 felonies for falsifying business records in order to hide critical information from voters before the 2016 election. Prosecutors say that Trump defrauded voters by illegally hiding payments he made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about their affair before the election. As Andrew Warren put it in The Daily Beast, the case “is about a plot to deprive voters of information about a candidate for president—information that Trump and his allies believed to be damaging enough to hide.”

And yet Trump’s MAGA Republicans are calling the shots in the House, and their refusal to support Ukraine threatens to empower Russian president Vladimir Putin and thus to lay waste to the rules-based international order that has helped to prevent world war since 1945. Conservative pundit Bill Kristol noted earlier this month that “politics is often a stage on which people act in bad faith. Still, the demagogic opposition of House Republicans to the border/Ukraine bill, when they’ve all said the border is an emergency and that Putin should be stopped, is just about the baddest bad faith ever.”

The implications of that bad faith for the country—and the world—are huge.


ICE and CBP. :cry:


February 16, 2024 (Friday)

At the Munich Security Conference, where leaders from more than 70 countries gather annually in Germany to discuss international security policy, Vice President Kamala Harris today responded to Trump’s recent attacks on America’s global leadership with a full-throated defense of global engagement.

People around the world have reason to wonder if the United States is committed to global leadership, she acknowledged. Americans, she said, must also ask themselves “[w]hether it is in America’s interest to continue to engage with the world or to turn inward. Whether it is in our interest to defend longstanding rules and norms that have provided for unprecedented peace and prosperity or to allow them to be trampled. Whether it is in America’s interest to fight for democracy or to accept the rise of dictators. And whether it is in America’s interest to continue to work in lockstep with our allies and partners or go it alone.”

Harris spoke at least in part to people at home, saying that upholding international rules and democratic values “makes America strong, and it keeps Americans safe.” Isolating ourselves and embracing dictators while we “abandon commitments to our allies in favor of unilateral action” is “dangerous, destabilizing, and indeed short-sighted,” she said. “That view would weaken America and would undermine global stability and undermine global prosperity.”

The Biden administration’s approach to global engagement is not “based on the virtues of charity,” Harris said, but rather is based on the nation’s strategic interest. “Our leadership keeps our homeland safe, supports American jobs, secures supply chains, and opens new markets for American goods. And I firmly believe,” she added, “our commitment to build and sustain alliances has helped America become the most powerful and prosperous country in the world—alliances that have prevented wars, defended freedom, and maintained stability from Europe to the Indo-Pacific. To put all of that at risk would be foolish.”

Turning to the defense of Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion, she said: “we have joined forces with our friends and allies to stand up for freedom and democracy…. The world has come together, with leadership from the United States, to defend the basic principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity and to stop an imperialist authoritarian from subjugating a free and democratic people.”

The European Union has recently committed $54 billion to support Ukraine in addition to “the more than $100 billion our European allies and partners have already dedicated,” she said, noting that that support makes it clear that Europe will stand with Ukraine.

“I will make clear President Joe Biden and I stand with Ukraine,” Harris said. “In partnership with supportive, bipartisan majorities in both houses of the United States Congress, we will work to secure critical weapons and resources that Ukraine so badly needs. And let me be clear: The failure to do so would be a gift to Vladimir Putin.”

“If we fail to impose severe consequences on Russia” for its invasion of Ukraine, she warned, “other authoritarians across the globe would be emboldened, because you see, they will be watching…and drawing lessons. “In these unsettled times, it is clear,” she said. “America cannot retreat. America must stand strong for democracy. We must stand in defense of international rules and norms, and we must stand with our allies.”

“[T]he American people will meet this moment,” Vice President Harris said, “and America will continue to lead.”

News that arrived just before Harris began to speak underscored her argument: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died in a Russian prison a day after being recorded on video in court, seemingly healthy. Navalny’s crusade against Putin’s corruption had led Putin to try repeatedly to murder him, then finally in 2021 to imprison him on trumped-up charges. Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, took the stage after Harris and vowed that Vladimir Putin and his allies “will be brought to justice, and this day will come soon.”

Russian elections will be held next month, and while Putin is assumed to be the certain victor, his recent disqualification of Boris Nadezhdin, who was running on a platform that opposed the Ukraine war, suggests he is concerned about opposition. Eliminating Navalny at this moment sends a warning to other Russians that, as Anne Applebaum noted in a piece today in The Atlantic, courage in opposing Putin is pointless.

In the U.S., Navalny’s apparent murder creates a political problem for Republicans. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) yesterday recessed the House for two weeks without taking up the national security supplemental bill that would support Ukraine in its fight against Russia, just as its supplies are running out.

On Saturday, former president Trump told an audience he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO countries that are not devoting 2% of their gross domestic product to building up their militaries. Meanwhile, former Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson has been in Moscow, interviewing Putin and favorably comparing Russia to the United States.

On Monday, in Dubai, Egyptian journalist Emad El Din Adeeb asked Carlson why, when interviewing Putin, he “did not talk about Navalny, about assassinations, about restrictions on opposition in the coming elections.” Carlson replied by equating Russia and the U.S., saying: “Every leader kills people…. Some kill more than others. Leadership requires killing people.”

The death of Navalny at just this moment appears to tie the Republicans to Putin’s murderous regime, and party leaders scrambled today to distance themselves from Putin. House speaker Mike Johnson, who has resisted passing aid to Ukraine and insisted the House would not be “rushed” into passing such a measure, released a statement saying that “as international leaders are meeting in Munich, we must be clear that Putin will be met with united opposition…. [T]he United States, and our partners, must be using every means available to cut off Putin’s ability to fund his unprovoked war in Ukraine and aggression against the Baltic states.”

Republicans trying to carve out distance between themselves and Trump’s MAGA Republicans used the occasion to call out MAGAs, saying, as former vice president Mike Pence did, “There is no room in the Republican Party for apologists for Putin.” Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who has pushed hard for Ukraine aid, wrote: “Putin is a murderous, paranoid dictator. History will not be kind to those in America who make apologies for Putin and praise Russian autocracy. Nor will history be kind to America’s leaders who stay silent because they fear backlash from online pundits.”

Navalny attacked the Putin regime by calling attention to its extraordinary corruption, and somewhat fittingly, the corruption of former president Donald Trump, who won the White House with Putin’s help, was also on the docket today.

In Manhattan, in the case concerning Trump and the Trump Organization’s manipulation of financial statements in order to get better loan terms and to pay fewer taxes, Justice Arthur Engoron ordered Trump and the Trump Organization to disgorge about $355 million in ill-gotten gains as well as more than $98 million in interest on that money from the time Trump obtained it through fraud. The total came to just under $454 million. Engoron also barred Trump from running a business or applying for a loan in New York for three years. The judge ordered Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric to pay more than $4 million each and barred them from serving as officers or directors of any New York corporation or legal entity for two years.

“[D]efendants submitted blatantly false financial data to…accountants,” Engoron wrote, “resulting in fraudulent financial statements. When confronted at trial with the statements, defendants’ fact and expert witnesses simply denied reality, and defendants failed to accept responsibility….” Engoron detailed the reluctance of the Trumps, including Ivanka, to tell the truth on the witness stand, and concluded: “Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological.”

New York attorney general Letitia James, who brought the lawsuit, commented: “Donald Trump is finally facing accountability for his lying, cheating, and staggering fraud. Because no matter how big, rich, or powerful you think you are, no one is above the law.”

In his 2022 documentary about Alexei Navalny, director Daniel Roher asked Navalny what message he would leave for the Russian people if he were killed. “Listen,” Navalny answered. “I’ve got something very obvious to tell you. You’re not allowed to give up. If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong. We need to utilize this power to not give up, to remember we are a huge power that is being oppressed by these bad dudes. We don’t realize how strong we actually are.”


I am reading these letters now, the morning after I post them. They are available at Apple Podcasts, Substack, and now Spotify, for those interested (they are free).


February 17, 2024 (Saturday)

Although few Americans paid much attention at the time, the events of February 18, 2014, in Ukraine would turn out to be a linchpin in how the United States ended up where it is a decade later.

On that day ten years ago, after months of what started as peaceful protests, Ukrainians occupied government buildings and marched on parliament to remove Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych from office. After the escalating violence resulted in many civilian casualties, Yanukovych fled to Russia, and the Maidan Revolution, also known as the Revolution of Dignity, returned power to Ukraine’s constitution.

The ouster of Yanukovych meant that American political consultant Paul Manafort was out of a job.

Manafort had worked with Yanukovych since 2004. In that year, the Russian-backed politician appeared to have won the presidency of Ukraine. But Yanukovych was rumored to have ties to organized crime, and the election was full of fraud, including the poisoning of a key rival who wanted to break ties with Russia and align Ukraine with Europe. The U.S. government and other international observers did not recognize the election results, while Russia’s president Vladimir Putin congratulated Yanukovych even before the results were officially announced.

The government voided the election and called for a do-over.

To rehabilitate his reputation, Yanukovych turned to Manafort, who was already working for a young Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska worried that Ukraine would break free of Russian influence and was eager to prove useful to Vladimir Putin. At the time, Putin was trying to consolidate power in Russia, where oligarchs were monopolizing formerly publicly held industries and replacing the region’s communist leaders. In 2004, American journalist Paul Klebnikov, the chief editor of Forbes in Russia, was murdered as he tried to call attention to what the oligarchs were doing.

With Manafort’s help, Yanukovych finally won the presidency in 2010 and began to turn Ukraine toward Russia. In November 2013, Yanukovych suddenly reversed Ukraine’s course toward cooperation with the European Union, refusing to sign a trade agreement and instead taking a $3 billion loan from Russia. Ukrainian students protested the decision, and the anger spread quickly. In 2014, after months of popular protests, Ukrainians ousted Yanukovych from power and he fled to Russia.

Manafort, who had borrowed money from Deripaska and still owed him about $17 million, had lost his main source of income.

Shortly after Yanukovych’s ouster, Russia invaded Ukraine’s Crimea and annexed it, prompting the United States and the European Union to impose economic sanctions on Russia itself and also on specific Russian businesses and oligarchs, prohibiting them from doing business in U.S. territories. These sanctions were intended to weaken Russia and froze the assets of key Russian oligarchs.

By 2016, Manafort’s longtime friend and business partner Roger Stone—they had both worked on Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign—was advising Trump’s floundering presidential campaign, and Manafort was happy to step in to help remake it. He did not take a salary but reached out to Deripaska through one of his Ukrainian business partners, Konstantin Kilimnik, immediately after landing the job, asking him, “How do we use to get whole? Has OVD [Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska] operation seen?”

Manafort began as an advisor to the Trump campaign in March 2016 and became the chairman in late June.

Thanks to journalist Jim Rutenberg, who pulled together testimony given both to the Mueller investigation and the Republican-dominated Senate Intelligence Committee, transcripts from the impeachment hearings, and recent memoirs, we now know that in 2016, Russian operatives presented Manafort a plan “for the creation of an autonomous republic in Ukraine’s east, giving Putin effective control of the country’s industrial heartland, where Kremlin-armed, -funded, and -directed ‘separatists’ were waging a two-year-old shadow war that had left nearly 10,000 dead.”

In exchange for weakening NATO, undermining the U.S. stance in favor of Ukraine in its attempt to throw off the Russians who had invaded in 2014, and removing U.S. sanctions from Russian entities, Russian operatives were willing to help Trump win the White House. The Republican-dominated Senate Intelligence Committee in 2020 established that Manafort’s Ukrainian business partner Kilimnik, whom it described as a “Russian intelligence officer,” acted as a liaison between Manafort and Deripaska while Manafort ran Trump’s campaign.

Now, ten years later, Putin has invaded Ukraine in an effort that when it began looked much like the one his operatives suggested to Manafort in 2016, Trump has said he would “encourage Russia to do whatever they hell they want” to NATO allies that don’t commit 2% of their gross domestic product to their militaries, and Trump MAGA Republicans are refusing to pass a measure to support Ukraine in its effort to throw off Russia’s invasion.

The day after the violence of February 18, 2014, in Ukraine, then–vice president Joe Biden called Yanukovych to “express grave concern regarding the crisis on the streets” and to urge him “to pull back government forces and to exercise maximum restraint.”

Ten years later, Russia has been at open war with Ukraine for nearly two years and has just regained control of the key town of Avdiivka because Ukrainian troops lack ammunition. President Joe Biden is warning MAGA Republicans that “[t]he failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten.”

“History is watching,” he said.


February 18, 2024 (Sunday)

On the third Monday in February, the U.S. celebrates Presidents Day, a somewhat vague holiday placed in 1968 near the date of George Washington’s birthday on February 22, 1732, but also traditionally including Abraham Lincoln, who was born on February 12, 1809. This year, that holiday falls on February 19.

That the American people in the twenty-first century celebrate Abraham Lincoln as a great president would likely have surprised Lincoln in summer 1864, when every sign suggested he would not be reelected and would go down in history as the man who had permitted a rebellion to dismember the United States.

The news from the battlefields in 1864 was grim. In May, General U. S. Grant had taken control of the Army of the Potomac and had launched a war of attrition to destroy the Confederacy. In May and June, more than 17,500 Union soldiers were killed or wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness, 18,000 at Spotsylvania, and another 12,500 at Cold Harbor. As the casualties mounted, so did criticism of Lincoln.

Those Republican leaders who thought Lincoln was far too conservative both in his prosecution of the war and in his moves toward abolishing enslavement had plotted with the humorless Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, who perennially hankered to run the country, to replace Lincoln with Chase on the 1864 ticket.

In February they went so far as to circulate a document signed by Senator Samuel Pomeroy of Kansas, a key party leader, saying that “even were the re-election of Lincoln desirable, it is practically impossible against the union of influences which will oppose him.” Even if he could manage to pull off a reelection, the Pomeroy circular said, he was unfit for office: “his manifest tendency towards compromises and temporary expedients of policy” would make the “dignity and honor of the nation…suffer.”

This was no small challenge: Chase had been in charge of remaking the finances of the United States, and he had both connections and Treasury employees all over the country who owed their jobs to him. In an era in which political patronage meant political victories, he had a formidable machine.

Lincoln managed to quell the rebellion from the radicals. In June 1864, soon after the party—temporarily renamed the National Union Party to make it easier for former Democrats to feel comfortable voting for Republicans—met to choose a presidential candidate, Chase threatened to resign from the Cabinet, as he had done repeatedly. In the past, Lincoln had appeased him. This time, Lincoln accepted his resignation.

But conservatives, too, were in revolt against Lincoln.

Crucially, Thurlow Weed, New York’s kingmaker, thought Lincoln was far too radical. Weed cared deeply about putting his own people into the well-paying customs positions available in New York City, and he was frequently angry that Lincoln appointed nominees favored by the more radical faction.

That frustration went hand in hand with anger about policy. Weed was upset that the Republicans were remaking the government for ordinary Americans. The 1862 Homestead Act, which provided western land for a nominal fee to any American willing to settle it, was a thorn in his side. Until Congress passed that law, such land, taken from Indigenous tribes, would be sold to speculators for cash that went directly to the Treasury. Republicans believed that putting farmers on the land would enable them to pay the new national taxes Congress imposed, thus bringing in far more money to the Treasury for far longer than would selling to speculators, but Weed foresaw national bankruptcy.

Even more than financial policy, though, Weed was unhappy with Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which moved toward an end of human enslavement far too quickly for Weed.

On August 22, Weed wrote to his protégé Secretary of State William Henry Seward that he had recently “told Mr. Lincoln that his re-election was an impossibility…. [N]obody here doubts it; nor do I see anybody from other states who authorises the slightest hope of success.”

“The People are wild for Peace,” he wrote, and suggested they were unhappy that “the President will only listen to terms of Peace on condition Slavery be ‘abandoned.’” Weed wrote that Henry Raymond, another protégé who both chaired the Republican National Committee and edited the New York Times, “thinks Commissioners should be immediately sent to Richmond, offering to treat for Peace on the basis of Union.”

On August 23, 1864, Lincoln asked the members of his Cabinet to sign a memorandum that was pasted closed so they could not read it. Inside were the words:

“This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards. — A. Lincoln”

But then his fortunes turned.

Just a week after Weed foretold his electoral doom, the Democrats chose as a presidential candidate General George McClellan, formerly commander of the Army of the Potomac, in a transparent attempt to appeal to soldiers. But to appease the anti-war wing of the party, they also called for an immediate end to the war. They also rejected the new, popular measures the national government had undertaken since 1861—the establishment of state colleges, the transcontinental railroad, the new national money, and the Homestead Act—insisting on “State rights.”

Americans who had poured their lives and fortunes into the war and liked the new government were not willing to abandon both to return to the conditions of three years before.

Then news spread that Rear Admiral David Farragut had taken control of Mobile Bay, the last port the Confederates held in the Gulf of Mexico east of the Mississippi River. On September 2, General William T. Sherman took Atlanta, a city of symbolic as well as real value to the Confederacy, and set off on his March to the Sea, smashing his way through the countryside and carving the eastern half of Confederacy in half again.

Reelecting Lincoln meant committing to fight on until victory, and voters threw in their lot. In November’s election, Lincoln won about 55% of the popular vote compared to McClellan’s 45%, and 212 electoral votes to McClellan’s 12. Lincoln won 78 percent of the soldiers’ vote.

After his reelection, Lincoln explained to a crowd come to serenade him why it had been important to hold an election, even though he had expected to lose it:

“We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.”

Happy Presidents Day


February 19, 2024 (Monday)

Today is the anniversary of the day in 1942, during World War II, that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 enabling military authorities to designate military areas from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” That order also permitted the secretary of war to provide transportation, food, and shelter “to accomplish the purpose of this order.”

Four days later a Japanese submarine off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, shelled the Ellwood Oil Field, and the Office of Naval Intelligence warned that the Japanese would attack California in the next ten hours. On February 25 a meteorological balloon near Los Angeles set off a panic, and troops fired 1,400 rounds of antiaircraft ammunition at supposed Japanese attackers.

On March 2, 1942, General John DeWitt put Executive Order 9066 into effect. He signed Public Proclamation No. 1, dividing the country into military zones and, “as a matter of military necessity,” excluding from certain of those zones “[a]ny Japanese, German, or Italian alien, or any person of Japanese Ancestry.” Under DeWitt’s orders, about 125,000 children, women, and men of Japanese ancestry were forced out of their homes and imprisoned in camps around the country. Two thirds of those incarcerated were U.S. citizens.

DeWitt’s order did not come from nowhere. After almost a century of shaping laws to discriminate against Asian newcomers, West Coast inhabitants and lawmakers were primed to see their Japanese and Japanese-American neighbors as dangerous.

Those laws reached back to the 1849 arrival of Chinese miners in California and reached forward into the twentieth century. Indeed, on another February 19—that of 1923—the Supreme Court decided the case of United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind. It said that Thind, an Indian Sikh man who identified himself as Indo-European, could not become a U.S. citizen. Thind claimed the right to United States citizenship under the terms of the Naturalization Act of 1906, which had put the federal government instead of states in charge of who got to be a citizen and had very specific requirements for citizenship that he believed he had met.

But, the court said, Thind was not a “white person” under U.S. law, and only “free white persons” could become citizens.

What were they talking about? In the Thind decision, the Supreme Court reached back to the case of Japan-born Takao Ozawa, decided a year before, in 1922. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that Ozawa could not become a citizen under the 1906 Naturalization Act because that law had not overridden the 1790 naturalization law limiting citizenship to “free white persons.” The court decided that “white person” meant “persons of the Caucasian Race.” “A Japanese, born in Japan, being clearly not a Caucasian, cannot be made a citizen of the United States,” it said.

As the 1922 case indicated, Asian Americans could not rely on the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, to permit them to become citizens, because a law from 1790 knocked a hole in that amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment provided that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” But as soon as that amendment went into effect, the new states and territories of the West reached back to the 1790 naturalization law to exclude Asian immigrants from citizenship on the basis of the argument that they were not “free, white persons.”

That 1790 restriction, based in early lawmakers’ determination to guarantee that enslaved Africans could not claim citizenship, enabled lawmakers after the Civil War to exclude Asian immigrants from citizenship.

From that exclusion grew laws discriminating against Chinese immigrants, including the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act that prohibited Chinese workers from migrating to the United States. Then, when Chinese immigration slowed and Japanese immigration took its place, the U.S. backed the so-called Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 under which Japanese officials promised to stop emigration to the United States. The United States, in turn, promised not to restrict the rights of Japanese immigrants already in the United States, although laws prohibiting “aliens” from owning land meant Japanese settlers either lost their land or had to put it in the names of their American-born children, who were citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment.

After the 1923 Thind decision, the United States stripped the citizenship of about 50 South Asian Americans who had already become American citizens. One of them was Vaishno Das Bagai, an immigrant from what is now Pakistan who came from wealth and who settled in San Francisco in 1915 with his wife and three sons to start a business. Less than three weeks after arriving in the United States, Bagai began the process of naturalization. He became a citizen in 1920.

The Thind decision took that citizenship away from Bagai, making him fall under California’s alien land laws that said he could not own land. He lost his home and his business. In 1928, explicitly telling the San Francisco Examiner that he was taking his life in protest of racial discrimination, Bagai committed suicide. His widow, Kala Bagai, became a community activist.

World War II changed U.S. calculations of who could be a citizen as global alliances shifted and Americans of all backgrounds turned out to save democracy. From Japanese-American concentration camps, young men joined the army to fight for the nation. In 1943 the War Department authorized the formation of Japanese-American combat units. One of those units, the 442d Regimental Combat Team, became the most decorated unit for its size in U.S. military history. Their motto was “Go for Broke.”

Congress overturned the Chinese exclusion laws in 1943 and, in 1946, made natives of India eligible for U.S. citizenship. The last Japanese internment camp closed in March 1946, and Japanese immigrants gained the right to become U.S. citizens in 1952.

In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford officially repealed Executive Order 9066 and noted that it was a “setback to fundamental American principles.” “We now know what we should have known then,” he said. “[N]ot only was that evacuation wrong, but Japanese Americans were and are loyal Americans…. I call upon the American people to affirm with me this American Promise—that we have learned from the tragedy of that long-ago experience forever to treasure liberty and justice for each individual American, and resolve that this kind of action shall never again be repeated.”

But now so-called “internment camps” are back in the news.

Trump has promised his supporters that in a second term he would launch “the largest domestic deportation operation in American history.” To deport as many as ten million of what he called “foreign national invaders,” Trump advisor Stephen Miller explained on a November podcast, the administration would federalize National Guard troops from Republican-dominated states and send them around the country to round people up, moving them to “large-scale staging grounds near the border, most likely in Texas,” that would serve as internment camps.


and they’re starting to build them now


We’re already struggling to undo for profit prisons and what 45 did/enabled to worsen treatment of immigrants during his first (and hopefully last) term in office. An example is described in this Democracy Now report (at the 10:00 mark):

Beau describes how this anniversary is being used to spread anti-immigrant misinformation on Xitter: